November 20, 2015 8:16 PM MST - Subscription purchasing, account maintenance, forum profile maintenance, new account registration, and forum posting have been disabled
as we prepare our databases for the final migration to our new server next week. Stay tuned here for more details.
Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Freezing Rain
Display Avatars Sort By:
Chris Jones
(NightMarcher) - F
Freezing Rain on 02/01/2012 06:22:04 MST Print View

Have you ever hiked in freezing rain or in high humidity/near-freezing conditions? Any lessons learned with regards to clothing, shelter, sleep systems, etc.?

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
Freezing Rain on 02/01/2012 07:02:18 MST Print View

Yes, I certainly have. If you know beforehand that you will encounter such conditions, you will be far better off using synthetics over goose down, for both your clothing and your sleeping bag/quilt. I want my shelter to be well-ventilated, to lessen the inevitable condensation that will occur. And for me, I like to have lots of hot drinks available during my down time. High calorie meals are necessary to maintain body warmth. If I get to camp early, and can manage the difficult logistics, a campfire is most welcome in such conditions.

Ken Bennett
(ken_bennett) - F

Locale: southeastern usa
Re: Freezing Rain on 02/01/2012 15:18:49 MST Print View

Yes. Hiking in freezing rain is a common occurrence in the winter in the Southern Appalachians. Often the precipitation will change from rain to freezing rain to snow, and then back again as one climbs and descends a long hill. It's also common to have air temps in the high 20s and light rain, so it freezes all over your clothing and gear. It can be beautiful, but also dangerous.

I often find myself wearing too much clothing when this happens. Of course, it's hard to change once the freezing rain starts, so I try very hard to back off on the clothing selection in the morning -- just a lightweight merino wool base layer under my rain shell, and my rain pants, light w/b gaiters, and wool boxer briefs on the bottom. Everything is going to get soaked inside my rain gear, but the wool helps keep me warmish inside my shell layer as long as I keep moving.

And you have to keep moving, all day if necessary. Once you stop, it's critically important to get out of the rain, strip off all that soaking wet clothing, and put on dry, warm layers as quickly as possible. Walking all day under those conditions makes one a prime candidate for hypothermia - cold, wet, and exhausted.

I'm not as worried about using down insulation under these conditions, because I won't have those items out of the pack until I'm done for the day and inside my nice dry shelter. That's when having some thick microfleece base layers and a big puffy down jacket feels like heaven on Earth.

Jeff J
(j.j.81) - F

Locale: Oregon
Pit Zips on 02/01/2012 18:09:43 MST Print View

One thing I learned on an ambitious day hike in heavy rain and wind was that pit zips are not worth it. As I was hiking and the wind was at my back, guessing 20+mph winds with gusts of I don't know, the wind was blowing rain into my rain jacket through the pit zips while they were zipped shut. I checked a few times because I could actually feel the wind. Then once I got into a sheltered location, I confirmed that my biceps and sides were damp. So now I'm looking at a rain jacket with no pit zips; if it's warm and wet, some sweat is no big deal, but if it's cold and wet, I want to stay dry no matter what.

This was also the hike that convinced me rain gloves/mitts were worth the weight. I figured I'd just stick my hands in my pockets, but that would have made a huge ingress point for rain, and I found I wanted my hands free anyway. My fingers were getting numb though.

I cut the hike short and headed for home after a few hours. Lessons learned, so while disappointing, not a loss.

I also just wore rain pants. On my legs, I had cheap poly long underwear and rain pants, and on my top I had a long sleeve running shirt, a nylon hiking shirt, and my rain coat. I eventually added the wool sweater that I was carrying because I was getting cold even when moving.


Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Pit Zips on 02/01/2012 19:14:46 MST Print View

"the wind was blowing rain into my rain jacket through the pit zips while they were zipped shut."

That sounds like poor garment construction or a cheap zipper.

I have several Goretex rain parkas with a bit of a fabric flap over each zipper, and no rain gets in while they are zipped shut.


John Nausieda
(Meander) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Pit Zips on 02/01/2012 19:24:22 MST Print View

My thinking too. What is the brand/ model of your jacket?

Jeff J
(j.j.81) - F

Locale: Oregon
Spot on on 02/02/2012 02:29:54 MST Print View

Yep, it's not a fancy, high end brand by any means. White Sierra from a few years back. It's kept me dry in everything before that, though it weighs 22 oz so I tend to opt for DriDucks on most trips. The issue is that the pit zips aren't water resistant zippers, but rather have a storm flap. The storm flap is constructed such that it protects if I head into the wind but not, evidently, with it.

I will say that I like the features and its design, though better materials would have made it a whole different jacket.

I bought some of the 2.5 oz WPB from Quest with the intent of making my own jacket. No pit zips intended, I'll add.

Tipi Walter
(TipiWalter) - F
Cold Rain on 02/06/2012 06:17:19 MST Print View

Ken Bennett pretty much hits the important points. On my last 18 day January trip (2012) I hit a stretch of 153 hours of butt cold rain which turned to sleet and then snow, and such conditions will test the hardiest backpacker. "153 hours you say"? Yes, and it's a personal record for length.

Here are the points Bennett makes which are spot on:
** It will change from rain to snow.
** Important to strip off wet gear and put on dry.
** You will get cold, wet and exhausted and be a prime candidate for hypothermia.

ERGO---here are my suggestions:
** Always carry two pair of gloves and expect one to get wet and keep the other in reserve and dry---just like you keep one pair of socks for hiking and one pair always dry for sleeping.

** Have an ample and oversized tent sack because very often a long rain will turn to sleet and ice and the tent will get encrusted and difficult to roll and pack or stuff. This is one of the hardest aspects of winter backpacking---packing up in the morning and shoving off.

** Take extra pegs because when a cold rain turns to a 15F snow, the stakes which were put into soft wet ground earlier have now become set in concrete and easily broken when removed. This is esp true when caught in a nasty windstorm when the pegs have to be deeply seated.

** Get a top of the line rain jacket (goretex proshell Arcteryx for example) for hiking in a cold rain as it can save your butt.

** Know when to hike in a window of lighter rain and when to hunker in and sit out a deluge. There are therefore Six Levels of Rain:

In my 153 hours of precip I was able to move most days because I did short miles and found windows of less rain opportunity to move thru it. You do not want to hike in a January or February deluge whereby key items get wet like the pack itself (even with a pack cover) or the rain enters the back of the pack between your back and the shoulder harness.

In other words, have a plan for a winter deluge. Either set up camp and sit it out or dump the pack and cover up yourself and your gear with a small tarp and wait it out or lean the covered pack up just so to avoid back panel soaking and wait for the worst of the deluge to pass.

As someone said, if you keep moving in poor conditions you stay warm although your hands can become blocks of wood in wet gloves. This is most noticed when getting to camp and trying to undo the hipbelt or unzip zippers. The hands become numb claws and almost unusable. It's important to set up camp quickly and find shelter and change quickly out of the wet boots/socks and gloves and shorts/underwear or rainpants and t-shirt/baselayer under the wet rain jacket.

My standard hiking kit in a butt cold rain is usually a rain jacketed top and bare legs in shorts, although if it is cold and windy I like to wear my rain pants with no thermals underneath to get wet.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Freezing Rain on 02/06/2012 12:37:05 MST Print View

A poncho will keep your upper body dry and the rain out of your pack. You can walk with your hands in your pockets to keep them warm. If wearing longer shorts that extend beyond the bottom of the poncho, then a skirt wrap is helpful. Excess wind might require a cord to keep the poncho from turning into a sail. I don't sweat much inside a poncho, as it ventilates well and my down clothing stays dry in the pack.

Large tarps keep you dry, ventilate well, and provide plenty of room to move around and even cook.

Now when things turn into heavy snow, then the whole system changes.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Freezing Rain on 02/06/2012 14:56:40 MST Print View


Rule 1: don't let the freezing rain soak you or your clothing continuously, robbing you of heat. (ie, deflect the rain off your body.)

Rule 2: have high-energy snack food available to eat while moving.

Rule 3: be prepared to stop early. (And be swift about getting your shelter up!)

We use MYOG silnylon ponchos over our body, our head and our pack:
(The Packa poncho is also a good design for this.)
Very often we do not use the sleeves: our arms are inside the poncho against our chest. This keeps warm air inside the poncho and against our backs. Comfortable down well below freezing.

We also wear overtrousers - either WP or at least very good DWR. Keep the legs warm and the feet will be warm.

Very often we will have only a single layer of light synthetic clothing on while moving. We rely on movement to keep us warm - and the trapped warm air under the poncho.

Note: you WILL get wet inside the poncho: that's sweat condensing. Tough. Don't get other clothing wet.

Cold is better than 40 C with 90% RH!


Ken Bennett
(ken_bennett) - F

Locale: southeastern usa
Re: Re: Freezing Rain on 02/07/2012 10:26:16 MST Print View

"Cold is better than 40 C with 90% RH!"

Now you're talking about late summer around here.... Heh. Totally agree with you.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
dry on 02/07/2012 20:14:41 MST Print View

what the others said ... and

make sure the clothes you wear can be wringed out and get somewhat dried with a hot water bottle and body heat if needed ... usually that means synth

make absolutely and utterly sure you have a foolproof way of starting a fire and practice it in the rain ... it may not be legal or required, but if yr up shiets creek, it can save you

practice it on day hikes and short overnighters before committing to something longer ... bad weather is just an excuse to test all that $$$$$ UL gear anyways ... whats the point of buying it if youre just dancing around in conditions other people can do in tshirts ;)

a b
Freezing Rain on 02/07/2012 20:31:12 MST Print View

I have to admit; during one all day freezing rain event, every hiker i met including me was cold and wet in our expensive jackets.. except the dude in the 99 cent plastic rain poncho.

John Nausieda
(Meander) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Freezing Rain on 02/07/2012 20:46:31 MST Print View

Yes and walking 10-12miles out of Hole in the Wall in Glacier -Waterton. We were drenched and talking to a two-some with kid about how we all wetted out. The conclusion was better to be an 18 year old girl for fast passage to whatever by older boatmen.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Freezing Rain on 02/07/2012 22:01:03 MST Print View

Wear as little as possible so you have as few wet clothes as possible.

Walk briskly to keep from getting cold.

Stop, put up shelter, put on additional clothing, body heat will dry the clothes you were wearing.

david delabaere

Locale: Northern VA
Freezing Rain on 02/08/2012 10:38:53 MST Print View

I like wearing a Buff around my neck, as I personally have a sensitive throat.
I find it useful catching any water that gets past the hood and still keep me somewhat warm.

On a side note, instead of having a poncho that covers the backpack, have a pack cover that goes over the shoulder and the sides but leaves you free to move around with a rain jacket ?

Pack liners and dry bags are fine and all (I do use them) but I 'd also like to avoid my backpack absorbing water or getting in through the top (golite pinnacle, big hole on top).

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Freezing Rain on 02/08/2012 13:38:30 MST Print View

Hi David

> have a pack cover that goes over the shoulder and the sides


Bobby Pack
(Piddler) - MLife

Locale: West Virginia
Re: Re: Freezing Rain on 02/08/2012 14:40:57 MST Print View

Hi Roger maybe David is talking about something like this OR pack hoody.

Hmm, can't seem to insert the image.

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Outdoor Research Pack Hoody on 02/08/2012 14:41:03 MST Print View

OR Pack Hoody looks like an appealing design for keeping your pack, back panel, and shoulder straps dry. Weighs 7.4 oz/ 208 g so must be fairly heavy fabric.

david delabaere

Locale: Northern VA
Re: Re: Freezing Rain on 02/08/2012 21:34:33 MST Print View

Whoops,I meant to say that I was thinking of making one and what people's take was on it.

-Lighter material
-More custom fit,
-let it drape a bit more on the backpack to cover any items outside of the pack - not as tight fitting.
- not sure about the hood, but then I need to think of a way to effectively cover the back neck opening.
- aside from vertical rain, need to account for wind and more angled rain. The OR item looks interesting but with movement I don't know how effective it will shield the rain under the arms on the sides.

Might as well get a cheap big poncho and start cutting. I was looking a the driducks poncho which can be had for cheap but I think it wouldn't cover the bacpack enough unless I just cover the opening and part of the backpack for lighter rain or maybe with cuben backpacks ?